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Title: Estimating heterotrophic respiration at large scales: challenges, approaches, and next steps

Heterotrophic respiration (HR), the aerobic and anaerobic processes mineralizing organic matter, is a key carbon flux but one impossible to measure at scales significantly larger than small experimental plots. This impedes our ability to understand carbon and nutrient cycles, benchmark models, or reliably upscale point measurements. Given that a new generation of highly mechanistic, genomic-specific global models is not imminent, we suggest that a useful step to improve this situation would be the development of "Decomposition Functional Types" (DFTs). Analogous to plant functional types (PFTs), DFTs would abstract and capture important differences in HR metabolism and flux dynamics, allowing models to efficiently group and vary these characteristics across space and time. We argue that DFTs should be initially informed by top-down expert opinion, but ultimately developed using bottom-up, data-driven analyses, and provide specific examples of potential dependent and independent variables that could be used. We present and discuss an example clustering analysis to show how model-produced annual HR can be broken into distinct groups associated with global variability in biotic and abiotic factors, and demonstrate that these groups are distinct from already-existing PFTs. A similar analysis, incorporating observational data, could form a basis for future DFTs. Finally, we suggest nextmore » steps and critical priorities: collection and synthesis of existing data; more in-depth analyses combining open data with high-performance computing; rigorous testing of analytical results; and planning by the global modeling community for decoupling decomposition from fixed site data. These are all critical steps to build a foundation for DFTs in global models, thus providing the ecological and climate change communities with robust, scalable estimates of HR at large scales.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Ecosphere, 7(6):e01380
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
carbon cycle; heterotrophic respiration; global modeling